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Founder & Director The Sustainable Angle
What were the top three innovations at this year's expo?
Our top three this year were the following:
One was a photosynthesising textile. It could generate oxygen. The textile is inoculated with algae, which is responsible for photosynthesising, and the wearer contributes to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.
The other great innovation was from Italian company VEGEA, that makes leather like material from grapes procured from the wine industry.
We also had biodegradable sequins, which were very promising. It replaces synthetic and was very future-orientated.
How many exhibitors and visitors made it to the 2018 show?
In 2018, we had about 3,000 visitors. For us, it is not about the numbers, but the quality of visitors. Since the expo is a curated showcase, up until 2018 supplier could not exhibit their materials themselves in a booth. But in 2019, a big difference is that we have 10 mills, best practice in our eyes, with their own booth along side of independent suppliers who send their fabrics. Being a curated showcase means a lot of suppliers send us their top sustainable materials and we showcase and promote it on their behalf. So we have 100-120 companies who send their fabrics and about 5,000 fabrics on display at the 2019 expo.
Which future fabrics and materials will replace cotton, polyester and leather in a big way in the years to come?
We will see a lot more of cellulose in textiles, but only those sourced from sustainable forest management are genuinely sustainable, provided they come from a closed loop. We need to ensure that the materials' waste streams end up as an input for the next material. We will also see a lot of bast fibres and interesting blends i.e. flax for linens and also hemp. We see lots of interesting blends with fibres like cotton and silk. A lot of innovation is going into developing bast fibres with softer feel. Besides this, a lot of agricultural waste and food waste will also be used as raw materials for fabrics. Recycling-both pre and post consumer-is also getting more and more popular. Marine plastics recovered from the ocean are being blended with other fibres. But just recycling is not enough; it is a transition. We need to find sustainable fibres in the first place-replacements for polyester, synthetics and conventional cotton, which are truly safe and recyclable. The focus on recycling must not distract us from that.
Which brands and textile companies are leading the way in sustainable manufacturing and closing the loop?
Hallotex from Spain has a closed loop approach and is doing great work focusing only on working with responsible fibres (organic cotton, Tencel, recycled polyester, Seaqual). The Lenzing Group in Austria with their Tencel is a good one for sourcing cellulose-based fibres. Elmer & Zweifel is Germany is a good one for organic cotton wovens, Fieratex in Greece for great biodegradable polyamides and Bysshe in the United Kingdom works with bast fibres. There are innovation companies like Orange Fiber, VEGEA and Sustainable Sequins Company or Nova Kaeru with their award-winning fish leather and vegan leathers are doing some ground breaking work pushing boundaries. There is so much going on that it is hard to choose a few.
What are the top five ways for brands to communicate sustainability to consumers?
One is being as transparent and traceable as possible. There are lots of brands listed on our website doing good work and communicating effectively. Being open about sourcing practices, raw materials and processes is the key. Brands need to be genuine, authentic and creative, and that will lead to trust and loyalty from customers. (HO)
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